Archives for the month of: June, 2010

At this time of year, in the evening and early morning, the north facade of our house is completely illuminated by the sun.  It’s the closest we get to living in the southern hemisphere.  I’m not sure where else this is happening at the same time, besides in the arctic.  Say it’s ten at night in Norway and it’s nine in the morning in New Zealand, then we’d both have the sun.  Is it the same sun?  How do they do that?

It’s eleven o’clock at night.  I just went out with Topsy the dog to collect the goats from the reservoir.  They were nervous on the way home, it’s dark when they look over at the woods, so who knows what might pop out?  The sky is blue with a few pink clouds, but there are no shadows, because the sun has gone behind the hills to the north.  There is the smell of wood smoke, every community has a bonfire on midsummer night.  Sankthansaften is the Scandinavian name for midsummer.  It’s the eve of the birth of St John the Baptist, known in the past in Denmark, apparently, as St Hans.  I’m not quite sure if there’s any other reason why we celebrate midsummer night on the twenty-third of June, rather than the twenty-first like the rest of the northern hemisphere.

From now on, the evenings begin to draw in.

The goats have started their summer job.  Like they did last year, they’re keeping the reservoir up the road tidy.  Eating their way around it.

Sometimes they take breaks up on the roof.

Someone made a comment about six months ago that they hadn’t seen much of the hens recently.

After about ten or twelve years of hen keeping, nowadays we have only two of them.  They seem quite happy.  Champagne, a Buff Orpington, mostly stays inside.  Cloudy is a faverolle, a very friendly breed of hen with feathery feet.  She lays quite small eggs.

Our best rooster was Leopold, who was a Welsummer until he was killed by a dozy chou-chou dog that jumped the fence illegally.  Leopold was a hell of a rooster; very intellegent, he died defending the six hens and Jussi, his assistant, from this enormous and very dim dog-thing.

All hens the world over have the same action:  they scratch the earth twice with one foot, take two steps backwards and watch for bugs or worms to appear.

How do they know to do this?

It’s been raining solidly for three days, and now the hillside is covered with Queen Anne’s lace.  I hope the cows like it.  I don’t know where they’ve gone.

Tonight there’s a gale.  I hope it means the rain is passing, because there’s a lot of stuff coming out on this wildflower bank in the garden.

They aren’t really wildflowers, they’re things I bought cheap at the garden centre — on sale in the autumn — and buttercups.

This is the bank seen from the top.  It’s not visible from inside the house, which is why I need it to stop raining.

Slug or snake?  It was getting dark when we saw it.   It was moving at a snail’s pace, though that was enough to make the picture blurry at the creature’s tail.  It was about 4″ (10 cm) long.  The front end looks the same as Arion lusitanicus, the so-called Iberian slug that reached Norway in 1988 but then took ten years to reach our garden from the other side of the lake (they went the pretty way, along the shore, not through the middle).  The back end is more like the hoggorm, or adder, that has a black-and-khaki zigzag pattern.

Slugs are supposed to be very destructive, but I haven’t ever seen any damage around here that wasn’t caused by either humans (litter) or cows (they like knocking over our garbage cans and going through the contents).  In Norway, Arion lusitanicus is also called the drepersnegl or mordersnegl, the killer- or murderer slug.  I feel quite confident I could take one on.  Snegl is used in Norway to cover both slugs and snails.  We have tons of snails too, and they never seem to eat a thing.  Either they’re all anorexic or it’s a myth that gastropods gobble up people’s gardens.

At this time of year, our garden is encircled by cows grazing.  Every weekday morning someone has to remember to shut the gate when we leave the house.

Some of the cows would just love to come into our garden and eat flowers and berry bushes, even though they have a couple of meadows full of vegetable matter all to themselves (there are only about twenty of them grazing on this hillside):

Anyway, this morning there was one cow opposite the gate, hiding behind a tree.  She was standing there waiting for me to forget to shut the gate (it has happened from time to time).

They’re big for dairy cattle.  I don’t know why they don’t just push it over.

When I came home she’d been joined by some of her friends.

The goats wouldn’t object if I removed the barriers to what I like to think of as my part of the garden.

In the meantime, in order to eat the blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes,

Misty has to proceed like this:

Apparently it’s worth any amount of discomfort,

even dragging your two stomachs over;

your weight pressing them into the wire when they’re already as taut as water balloons.

Gazing at them over the fence, day after day, currant bushes

could easily become an obsession.

John Emerson posted these pictures of lemurs at Haquelebac.  Because of the shape of the moustache, the one on the right reminded me of Groucho Marx immediately,

Stalin and Proust came to me only after a couple of days of agonizing.

The first blossom to come out is cherry.  We usually have it in our garden on Norway’s national day, the seventeenth of May.

Afterwards we have plum and pear blossom, and now all the apple trees are out.  This one below is a Bramley cooking apple (there’s a small beetle on it).

And this is a smallish Japanese crabapple next to the house:

They all have quite different blossom, really.  There’s more to come; lilac and philadelphus, both of which are strongly scented, should be in bloom soon.

Here are some other things that are out.  Cowslips and forget-me-nots,

more forget-me-nots and dandilions

Topsy got stuck.  She got her lead tangled in the long grass down by the compost heap.  It wasn’t a disaster.

This tree stump was once an apple tree.  We sawed through a rotten section,

which was being converted into a desirable residence by a group of ants.  It’s been going on for years.  They do the work by eating their way through the tree-stump and so far they’re about a quarter of the way around.  It’s more open to the rain than they originally intended and much lighter, but they don’t seem to mind.  There’s a nice stalagmite effect, it looks like Arizona from the air; it must be quite dramatic at night if you’re the size of an ant.

Last Saturday, we went to the track.  It’s something I love to do though I seldom get the opportunity.

The racecourse is called Jarlsberg, though there’s no obvious connection with the cheese. Actually, we didn’t go to a race, but to a horse show.  Young horses were being judged on  their appearance, particularly their legs, and on their gaits.

This kind of thing is very important for breeders because the appraisal affects the value of the horse.

There were lots of different kinds of  horse.  The ones above and below are Welsh cobs.  The lower one had her foal with her (they weren’t for sale).

She got very high marks.  Here they are posing with their owner.  They departed later in the space craft.

I saw several foals.  These are curly horses; they are hypoallergenic.

And there were Shetland ponies no bigger than large dogs.  The man in the bowler hat and carrying a riding crop was a judge.

A judge of horses, that is.  I thought they were an unlikely-looking group, the judges.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? well, they didn’t give a good overall impression. They had bad posture and gaits, their coats weren’t shiny, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about their legs.  Some had put in no effort at all.